Archive | Sabboytical

Blue Valentine (A Picture in Words)

I still have a picture of the two of us though I’ve trained myself not to think of him much and to speak of him even less. It is almost a black and white photo. Only the sunlight reads as pale yellow, and my eyes, normally green, are a deep indigo. The rest is a symphony in grey.

He took the photo the summer we fell in love—the only summer we were in love, really—and you can tell because we’re smiling the unguarded smiles you bestow upon a lover. A good one. On the day he took it, we’d been making love off and on for hours, breaking apart so he could practice and I could do some work, and then climbing back into each other because being apart even for a little while felt irrelevant. Right before the sun fell we’d put on some clothes to venture out for food, and he’d snapped a photo of us with his phone. It’s a photo he sent again later, when he’d left and wanted to come back. It was a smart photo to send, though for a time I had to stop opening anything he sent.

But. When I find it hard to understand why I believed anything he told me, any of the promises his eyes and hands and mouth made, I stare at this image. His lids are lowered, he’s furrier than usual with a few days of beard and some hair on his normally shaved skull, and his faint smile isn’t just charming. He looks peaceful and confident, sure on that day at least that he could make it work, could take care of us both. I look peaceful, too; about 20 years younger than I was. Young enough to believe someone other than myself could take care of me, should take care of me. My skin and eyes are gleaming, so bright, and there is a big, knowing gratitude smoothing out our features and sharp lines. We are so calm, so happy, so ready. He is squarely center in the frame and I am on tiptoe behind him with my chin tucked into his shoulder and my arms wrapped around his midriff. Like a baby orangutan, a Muppet, he always said. My smile is the small, pleased smile I stopped revealing a long time ago. Now it is always wide smiles, huge toothy grins that are so much easier to produce on demand. In the photo the fading sunlight falls across half my face, and doesn’t reach him at all. I wonder now if he intended that effect. In the shadows he was so very beautiful.

Grandrent! The Musical!

Now that my co-creator and I have completed the onerous tasks of le apartment rehab—sanding, plastering, painting, sawing—we’re onto the details. Where, you know, g-d lies. This morning I rewired a lamp myself by following a YouTube tutorial, cleaned out a dusty 1920s filing cabinet by googling “remove and clean shelves” and, using lemon rind and baking soda, degreased my grandmother’s 1940s Fiestaware–as recommended on a cleaning website. The Internet has legitimized its existence. Today.

La Middle-Aged Vie Boheme

Lately I can’t stop listening to the soundtrack of Rent. I didn’t even like that musical when it first came out, arguably because I was living in the creative ghetto of Manhattan’s Lower East Side amongst a bunch of drug addicts and queens of all genders, and resented what felt like a Disney version of my life. Twenty years later, I adore its cocktail of pathos and joy, which just goes to show you that nostalgia can be generated for anything once it’s passed.

I’m especially moved that, with great heart, this production puts its “Today 4 U” money where its mouth is. Written in the midst of the AIDS crisis, it is based upon many characters who did not survive to see the 21st century, and was written by a young man who, because of a genetic syndrome, knew that he would not. Now that I’m of an age when my peers and I daily live with mortality as a reality rather than a fantasy, I appreciate Rent’s carpe-doomsday aesthetic, even if it does come with jazz hands. I sing selections from its soundtrack all the time. “Light My Candle” as I clean; “Life Support” as I drive; “Seasons of Love” as I cook; “Will I” as I pay bills; “Santa Fe” as I walk block after NYC block; “Take Me or Leave Me” as I paint. Often I weep as I sing, but it’s not unhappy weeping. It’s that my-joy-and-sorrow-connects-me-to-the-universe sort of weeping. It’s weeping along the lines of that Stella Adler quote: Life beats down the soul and art reminds you that you have one.

At the same time I’ve become a ’90s musical enthusiast, I can’t stop painting and wallpapering things. This began when I commenced my home rehab last fall. I’d always feigned the vapors when anything had to be fixed around my rent-stabilized apartment, either Tom Sawyering an innocent bystander or, more than often than not, ignoring the problem entirely until it toppled on my head. (That really happened once; a badly installed ceiling lamp fell on my bed just as I was going to town on a long-lashed lover.) I think I assumed–feminism be damned!–that eventually I’d be married or moneyed, and so would be able to permanently fob off those handyman tasks or just move somewhere grander. But after last fall’s final break from a man I deeply love, I accepted my life might always be white steed-free. So I rolled up my sleeves and commenced to finally fix up this fix-it-upper—to divest and plaster and sand and paint and forage. You know, that Marge Piercy quote: Bless whatever you can with eyes and hands and tongue. If you can’t bless it, get ready to make it new. Continue Reading →

"All, everything I understand, I understand only because I love."
― Leo Tolstoy